As you might have guessed by now, I’m of that rare breed of music maniac that can and does listen to music while doing pretty much any other activity, whether it be reading, cooking, doing chores around the house, or whatever. It used to be that I couldn’t even fall asleep without music playing, though my wife broke me of that habit. And my office day job (back when I did actually go in to an office) was one at which I was often able to put on my headphones and listen to music, as long as it didn’t bother those in the next cubicle. Back then and even now, when I am really busy and I need to hunker down and concentrate, I’ll plug my earphones into my iPod and throw on some tunes to drown out other distractions. I’m certain it improves my productivity.
It was during one of these work/rocking out sessions that I fell hard for The Maccabees. I had written about their third and as we now know, penultimate album, “Given to the wild”, on my old blog as part of this series I did that highlighted my three favourite albums released each month. They were a new-to-me band and got me excited at the time but then, as often happened in those days with all the new music I consumed, I moved on to the next dozen things and promptly forgot about them. Still, the album remained on my iPod for months and on that day at work, this very song, “Ayla”, came on and I lost my place in the briefing note I was working on.
The Maccabees were a five-piece from London, England that existed for a grand total of thirteen years and four albums. They toured with the likes of Bloc Party and Florence and the Machine, other acts from around the same time and place that also mined the post-punk sounds of the seventies and eighties to create fresh tunes to great effect. “Given to the wild” did very well for the group. It was panned by Pitchfork but was praised by the NME and garnered them a Mercury Prize nomination.
Listening to “Ayla”, you might make comparisons to those recent bands I mentioned above but you can really trace The Maccabees back to iconic acts like Talking Heads or David Bowie’s Berlin-era. It is a-thrum with wandering piano arpeggios and cranky guitar riffs filtered through refracted light. Like many of the songs on “Given to the wild”, it is so big sounding that it begs to be performed at Royal Albert Hall with a full orchestra and choir, à la Spiritualized. The video below follows a man on a bicycle racing towards some unknown goal while the sky does some funky things. Not the most brilliant piece of storytelling but the music is quite delicious.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.